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Media addicted Tweens and Teens? Why You Should Follow Your Kids

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In a digital world of “swipe,” “like,” and “follow,” it is common for teens and tweens to experiment with multiple apps. Today, it is nearly impossible to find a teen without a smartphone. We see teens on their phones and hear the constant “ding” notification sound, but what exactly are our children doing inside of their virtual world? Here are the top 4 apps your kids may be using today and why you should be monitoring their activity.

Social Media Apps

Instagram- This photo and video sharing app is among the most popular apps for teens. They take a lot of pride in their Instagram activity, boasting of followers and likes on their profile. As a parent, you should be following your kid on Instagram and, if they don’t want you to do so, that may be a red flag. Following your child allows you to check what content they are posting, , who is commenting on their photos, who your child is following, with whom they are interacting, and much more. It is also imperative that your child makes their account private, as this enables approval or denial of follow requests. Only those who are approved can view your child’s photos and videos, which can help protect them from strangers or potential predators.

Snapchat- Snapchat is among one of the most controversial apps on the market for teens. This photo sharing app allows users to send videos or pictures with a time limit on them. Once the photo is opened and the time expires, it disappears, but not forever. This is the issue: teens have the misconception that their photos are gone forever after the timer is up.  This can lead teens to make bad judgement calls and possibly send inappropriate photos. With data recovery or screen shots, the photos your teens send can be recovered, and there is no true privacy guideline to protect your photos from getting in the wrong hands. Make sure your child knows that nothing posted in the digital world completely disappears.

Another controversial aspect of the app is the media outlet portion of the app, labeled “Discover” This section isn’t censored and can have suggestive content that isn’t appropriate for all ages.

This app doesn’t have a timeline or permanent posts for you to keep track of as a parent, but you should still be friends with your child on the platform. You can view your child’s “stories,” which are photos and videos posted for 24 hours before they expire.

Tumblr- Tumblr is another platform for which gives users the ability to express themselves instantaneously and in a creative fashion. Users can share audio, text, and photos to a public audience, they cannot privatize their content. The creativity and design feature makes it popular among teens, but the lack of filters can lead to the publishing of sensitive posts. Similar to the likes of Instagram, a parent should check in on their child’s account. What others post and what your child views is hard to regulate, however, you can check what your child posts on a regular basis to ensure it is appropriate. 

Online Gaming 

Fortnite– Fortnite came out with its Battle Royale game mode just over a year ago and has since taken the world by storm with 125 million players. The game has become so popular, parents are hiring tutors for their kids to help improve their gaming skill, in fact, colleges are offering scholarships to prospective students. The main goal of the game is to be the last man standing. You drop onto an island with 99 other players, scavenge for loot and weapons, and try your best to survive using the unique building feature.

Fortnite seems like an innocent game with cartoon like graphics, so why should parents be monitoring their kids while they play? The main concern for parents should be the lack of controls on voice chat. In the duo and squad modes within the game, your child can be paired up with random players. This can be dangerous, as your child may be talking to a complete stranger, not to mention the crude language your child may be exposed to. Some of these strangers could prod for your child’s personal information in hopes to steal their account and in-game rewards. Therefore, parents should make sure their children aren’t speaking to anyone they don’t know in real life.

The creator of Fortnite, Epic Games, recently encouraged players to activate two factor authentication to address the reports of account hacking. They strongly recommended your child has 2FA enabled and understand the risk associated with giving out personal information while playing. On top of in-game chat functions and sharing personal information, our children need to be careful of the “Free V-Bucks” scam. V-Bucks are in game currency, which can be bought for real money, used to buy in game items. Online scammers are posting links to get “free v-bucks”, however, these links are typically plagued with malware and that can be accidentally downloaded onto your computer or gaming device without notice. So, warn your child to never click untrusted links from an unknown or unverified source, YouTube video, or online influencer. Nothing is free, so if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, you can only buy V-Bucks through Epic Games.

Why is it important to follow or monitor your child’s media use?

Our children are consumers of media each and every day; they are intaking countless images, texts, and videos from media platforms. In their young and malleable state, this media can have a large impact on how they develop as people. Monitoring their activity on social outlets will help you understand what influences they are being exposed to and how they are acting as digital citizens. It’s a great way to determine if your child is acting appropriately and safely online.

Social media outlets and the Internet can be healthy learning experiences to help children grow. However, if they aren’t properly educated or monitored, it can be a dangerous world for your kids. By tracking their content, you may be able to potentially save them from Internet threats such as cybercrime. The anonymity of the Internet offers scammers, stalkers, and criminals a false identity to hide behind. They prey on children who share personal information via social outlets. Too many people share their information online, knowingly or unknowingly. This data can be used to steal identities, hack into financial accounts, or to stalk children. Following your children is a great way of empowering yourself as a parent. Keeping yourself up-to-date on popular apps and how they work, as well as tracking your child’s activity, is a must.

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